As some of you may be aware there were a number of articles in the British press over the last few weeks that were very transphobic, and in some cases just down right disgusting. Normally I don’t react to the comments and opinions expressed on the Internet. I know what to expect, the types of people that hide behind their computer screens and spout their backwards opinions. This time however I couldn’t help but to drawn in to what was happening, because of not only the content but where it was appearing.
All of this started when ‘The New Statesman’ published an except from journalist Suzanne Moore’s new book. The piece looked at the concept of anger, and why women should remain angry in society during the current political climate. The main problem with the except, however, came when she was discussing the physical ideal that women are expected to live up to she expressed that women should look like ‘Brazilian Transsexuals’.
At this point I have to admit I was not too bothered by her comment. Yes, it was bad I admit that and Brazilian Transsexuals made up over a hundred names in the 2012 Transgender Day of Remembrance list. Despite the stupidity of her statement I felt like I had read worse elsewhere and that was something said out of ignorance rather than any kind of hatred towards Trans people.
A number of people did not share my views on this situation and were angry, as they were within their right to be. These people took to twitter and expressed their views on Moore’s statement. This would have been a good time for her to apologise for her comment and accept the criticism give to her. Instead she fought back, replying with more offensive statements which in turn caused more criticism igniting a whole twitter argument. Unable to compete with the in pouring of comments Moore quitted twitter, though not before posting a flippant comment on The Gurdian.
So that’s the end right? Unfortunately not. It was at this point that Joe Burchill, a writer and friend of Suzanne Moore, joined the debate. Unfortunately Burchill has long been known for her transphobic and frankly disgusting views on Trans issues. She even at one time called for all sex workers to be shot. Definitely a level headed woman then.
Burchill’s piece appeared on The Guardian’s website, though rather than being a professional journalistic opinion piece read more like a hate message from an extremist blog. Burchill blatantly admits that she is attacking Trans people because of the comments her friend received. She doesn’t even try to hide it. What’s worse is the language she uses. Stating that she knows how offensive the words are she goes on to use the terms ‘trannys’, ‘she-males’, ‘shims’ and ‘dicks in dresses’ on numerous occasions. She even attempts to justify using these terms because she finds offence in the word Cis when used to describe non trans people.
Now, anyone with a single shred of common sense would try to find out what this word means before turning around and attacking other people for using it. Burchill does not, simply stating that it ‘sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff’. What she would know if she took all of a minute to research before attacking is that Cis is short for Cissexual, a standard medical term for someone born into the correct body. It is simply the opposite of Trans being short for Transsexual and not an insult in any way. Instead of learning this though she just proceeds to throw around insults and slurs because she’s ill informed and upset that her friend got told off.
These horrid statements light a fire under the Trans community that I’d never seen before, with many Trans and Cis people coming to the dense of the Trans community. Normally when reading through the comments section for an article like this there is a mixture of support and disagreement on the points made in the article, this time however all I saw was people outraged by what was written.
Within hours of being published there were a number of petitions made and advice given out about where to complain to. Government Minister Lynne Featherstone, former Equalities Minister, spoke out calling for Burchill to be ejected from The Observer.
Suzanne Moore quickly returned to twitter and issued an apology and Burchill’s article was withdrawn. The speed at which this was done was amazing, with so many people rallying to the cause. Its very heart warming to see so many people coming to the defence of the Trans community the way they did.
My biggest concern, however, is that Burchill should not have even been allowed to publish such an article within the mainstream press to begin with. Even someone that is not Trans, or knows anyone that is Trans, would find offence reading the article. It dripped venom. So why was it even allowed to be published to begin with? If it were any other minority group being attacked in this way the publisher wouldn’t dare touch the piece, let alone put it up on their website.
Tighter checks need to be put in place to stop things like this happening in the future, as attacks like this are simply unacceptable in what is supposed to be an enlightened society. Trans people go through enough pain and have to deal with enough prejudice in their daily lives as it is, without the media allowing these very public, very personal attacks.
I know that there are some people reading this that will disagree with me, that will think that I’m just another Trans person who thinks that the whole world is out to get me, or wants attention or is finding insults where none really exist. To these people I simply say that I’m sorry you believe that, but most of all I’m glad that you don’t have to read articles like the one Burchill produced. This is not me blowing things out of proportion, or crying wolf. Instead I am simply saddened at the way the world is that things like this are allowed to happen to begin with.